Septuagesima Sunday, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 361 O Jesus King 4:1
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #657 Beautiful Savior 4:24
God Is Gracious, Not Fair
The Hymn #462 I Love Thy Kingdom 4:21
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #277 I Heard the Voice 4:57
1 Corinthians 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
KJV Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Lord God, heavenly Father, who through Thy holy word hast called us into Thy vineyard: Send, we beseech Thee, Thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may labor faithfully in Thy vineyard, shun sin and all offense, obediently keep Thy word and do Thy will, and put our whole and only trust in Thy grace, which Thou hast bestowed upon us so plenteously through Thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may obtain eternal salvation through Him, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
God Is Gracious, Not Fair
Luther said, humorously, “Mean-spirited people will use this parable.”
But the chief point is that these laborers insist on a definite wage, so much per day; and not until this agreement is reached do they go to work. Such a contract was not demanded by the other laborers who went to work later. These first laborers thus manifest a mercenary spirit. We hear the voice of Peter in 19:27, “What, then, shall be ours?”
Since this is a parable which was composed in order to teach certain facts about the kingdom, the entire first group of laborers is pictured as being mercenary. This is done, not only to show how in the end some first shall find themselves last, but also to accord these laborers the highest justification, such as it is, for their mercenary expectation that they ought to receive more pay than the rest (v. 12). Jesus lets this group alone work the entire day.
The moment we ask what is meant by the denarius we must consider a variety of interpretations. The interpretation of this detail necessarily involves the entire parable and centers in the main thing Jesus intends to teach. Thus, if the denarius is Christ himself as our sacrifice, the parable merely says that in the end all workers will be alike, no matter whether some were mercenary and murmured when they received their pay. We have the same result when the denarius is thought to mean the image of God, or as many still think, eternal life. This view leads those who interpret thus to dissociate the words about the first and the last spoken in 19:30 and 20:16 from the parable, or they interpret these words so that the first become last only by receiving a rebuke, and the last first by receiving no rebuke. Then Jesus should have said, “Thus there will be neither first nor last, but all will be alike.” It should not be difficult to see that these interpretations are unacceptable. How can anyone who has Christ, the divine image, or eternal life, murmur in the end? What can any man expect to receive more (v. 10) than these treasures? If this “more” is to be an especial degree of glory in heaven, the parable itself in no way mentions this glory. Then, too, these interpretations teach that by our labor we earn Christ, the image, or life eternal, a doctrine that is contrary to the teaching of Christ and of the Scriptures.
In the face of this Luther gives up the effort to interpret the denarius: Man muss nicht achten, was Pfennig oder Groschen sei. Few have cared to follow him. Melanchthon, Luther’s associate, found the solution. The denarius stands for the temporal blessings, the bona temporalia, of the work in the church; and the goodness (“because I am good,” v. 15) is life eternal and grants the bona spiritualia. The laborers who regard themselves first receive only the former and thus become last; the rest, who are considered last, receive both bona and are thus made first. No man who enters the visible church and accepts the call to work in this church shall be left without his due pay. The Lord will not have it said that any man worked for him without pay. The blessings of even an outward connection with the church are many. All her associations and her influences are highly beneficial. They shield us against evils that ravage the world and cause endless harm; they surround us with the highest morality and with all that is best for mind and for heart in this life. And often the church offers social, business, and other advantages of no mean value. They are all included in the denarius of the parable. But eternal life is not one of these.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 765
The first appeal children learn is, “Not fair!” They apply the rule of the law, or tradition, to the upset being faced. Often law is debated by more law.
This parable offers us a bizarre example of hiring people to illustrate that God is not man, that He rules by grace rather than Law.
The parable is also a rebuke to those who trust in the righteousness of works, those who “labored in the burning sun.”
People remember this parable because the householder hired people for a specific wage at the beginning of the day. He continued to invite people to work during the day but made no specific promise after the first one.
At the end of the day, the first-hired reckoned they would get much more than the penny a day promised, because they worked all day and the others worked far less than they did. In terms of paying laborers, that was fair.
So they grumbled loudly to the owner, telling Him how unfair He was.
This is how we respond to God without the Gospel, or when we forget the Gospel. We say, “Not fair!” But God is gracious rather than fair.
This parable is an additional illustration of Isaiah 55, often called the Means of Grace chapter. God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.”
Mankind understands fairness in religion. That is why every world religion, every pagan religion of old, and every perversion of the Christian faith is based upon works earning God’s forgiveness.
In our natural (un-converted) state, we think this way. We easily revert to it too. People will mock believers and say, “Why do Christians have so many troubles if God is so powerful and loving?” That seems terribly unfair.
Believers also realize that they face constant temptations, which they never have if they believe nothing and do whatever they wish. That is also why the Christian frauds of today turn Christianity into a cornucopia of material benefits, since people will flock to have what their itching ears desire.
The grace of God means that He has taken care of our salvation, first by having His beloved Son Jesus die on the cross for our sins. Secondly, He appointed the Means of Grace so that we would be converted and sustained by the Word. He also saw to it that we would have His clear, infallible Word to be our guide, and faithful ministers and leaders to preserve the Gospel in each era.
One Catholic girl tried to defend Purgatory to Little Ichabod, many years ago. Her argument was right out of the Catholic textbook. “It’s only fair that we pay for our sins after we die. It’s not fair to have many sins forgiven, just the same as a few sins.”
LI said, “It’s not fair to have the sins of the world paid for on the cross. God is not fair. He is merciful.” The girl’s argument collapsed.
The Owner’s rebuke is a lesson by itself.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
I run into this as a teacher. I am supposed to show students how to write better. Recently a student told me off for doing exactly that. About 90% of the class liked exactly what I did, but he saw it as evil. Thus many ordinary roles are seen as evil – parent, police officer, minister. Many people see ministers as condemning them. They also see the Scriptures as a message of condemnation.
On a much larger scale, people look at God as evil because He does not conform to their demands.
Christians do that too. Clergy will wheedle and play politics for the job they think they deserve. Or they cringe in their studies, afraid to do their job of rebuking with the Word, lest they find punishment instead of a free trip to the Holy Land.
The evil does not come from God but from the works-righteousness of the individual. Either the person turns away from the Christian faith because it is not a rewards program according to his demands, or he gives up on the Christian faith because the cross is “not fair” and evil people seem to get all the glory.